1838 - 1843
The former town of Port Leon, once the terminal for the Tallahassee-St. Marks Railroad, was located across the St. Marks River about two miles south of here.
Port Leon, A Ghost Town Two Miles South
The Tallahassee-St. Marks Railroad was critical to shipping materials from all of what was then called ?Middle Florida' and Southern Georgia. In 1839, Richard Keith Call, president of the Tallahassee Railroad Company, founded the town of Port Leon as the railroad terminus in order to capture the cotton shipping business from the towns of Magnolia and St. Marks. The company had a bridge with two openings, built according to the Town lattice design, erected over the St. Marks River at this location. Businessmen from Magnolia were quick to buy lots, build warehouses, and benefit from the new port city. Freight was no longer loaded in St. Marks.
There were twenty or more houses, a saw mill and grist mill; businesses included warehouses, a hotel, two taverns, a post office and a newspaper. Port Leon, established in 1838, was designated the first county seat when Wakulla was carved from Leon County in 1843. Just a few months later the town was destroyed by a hurricane. The storm swept the bridge up the St. Marks River. Residents boated around the remaining center post for decades thereafter.
After the hurricane the railroad company quickly announced that freight would again be accepted in the St. Marks terminal. The residents of Port Leon moved upstream to establish the town of Newport. All that remains of Port Leon are disturbed lands in the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and the railroad bed that is now part of the Florida National Scenic Trail. Today the terminus of the Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail is in the town of St. Marks where visitors enjoy the laid-back, eco-tourism and great food.